Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

We're All Gonna Die

As Americans pursue immortality, we drop like flies.

Stamatis Moraitis tending his vineyard on Ikaria
The New York Times, in an article by Dan Buetnner titled "The Island Where People Forget to Die," describes a study "of the places where people live longest" organized by Buetnner, including Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean. The story, however, focuses on Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek national who lives in Ikaria, another Mediterranean island. 

Moraitis returned to Ikaria to die after contracting lung cancer in the U.S. in his early sixties. Moraitis didn't die, and at the age of 97 (or 102, the age he claims to be) he actively cultivates his vineyard and garden, enjoying life immensely. "He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria." The article—the research—is part of Buetnner's efforts "to take what we were learning in the field and apply it to American communities."

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Except, the article (and research) actually reveals how Americans' lifestyles—more than those of any other Westernized society—lack the elements of longevity.  And we like it that way! Here are the five key elements in Moraitis' story, none of which we can, nor do we want to, create here. We're all gonna die! I list these factors in reverse order of importance:

5.  Environment. Moraitis got out of his deathbed because "he enjoyed being in the sunshine, breathing the ocean air." We can never create such an environment, in ways we don't realize, even as we futilely focus on clean air and water. Among other things, Moraitis lives very much in darkness and silence. 

Here in the U.S., there is literally no darkness and silence. We are only now beginning to learn how light and sound pollution wreck our health. Yet night lighting is one of the most popular safety features people insist on installing in their residences.

4. Food. When Moraitis first rose from his "deathbed," "he planted some vegetables in the garden."  Typical diet: "a breakfast of goat’s milk, wine, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread. Lunch was almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion or a spinachlike green called horta) and whatever seasonal vegetables their garden produced; dinner was bread and goat’s milk. At Christmas and Easter, they would slaughter the family pig and enjoy small portions of larded pork for the next several months." A doctor focused on natural herbs: "local 'mountain tea,' made from dried herbs endemic to the island, which is enjoyed as an end-of-the-day cocktail. He mentioned wild marjoram, sage (flaskomilia), a type of mint tea (fliskouni), rosemary and a drink made from boiling dandelion leaves and adding a little lemon. 'People here think they’re drinking a comforting beverage, but they all double as medicine,' Leriadis said. Honey, too, is treated as a panacea. 'They have types of honey here you won’t see anyplace else in the world.'" 

Here in the U.S., I bet you're already figuring out how to get these things! Sorry, you can't—America is run by an agrimonopoly that guarantees we will all—even the most conscientious of us—eat largely processed, corn-based, genetically modified (or certainly genetically limited) crops.  And how many of us are going to boil dandelion leaves?

3. Pacing. "Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight." Speaking to one of Ikaria's few physicians, "on an outdoor patio at his weekend house, he set a table with Kalamata olives, hummus, heavy Ikarian bread and wine. 'People stay up late here,' Leriadis said. 'We wake up late and always take naps. I don’t even open my office until 11 a.m. because no one comes before then.' He took a sip of his wine. 'Have you noticed that no one wears a watch here? No clock is working correctly. When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.'” 

Here in the U.S., are you planning on teaching your children to get up when they feel like, and not to worry about getting into and succeeding at the best schools, so they can get the best jobs? Enough said.

2. Alcohol. Notice the good doctor drinking wine with his midday meal? And what about those peasants having wine for breakfast! I represented a small woman who had a beer with lunch before reporting for her afternoon shiftwork, when she was found to have a .02 level of alcohol in her system (DUI levels are .08). She was forced into six years of AA-based treatment! While Moraitis was on his "deathbed," "when his childhood friends discovered that he had moved back, they started showing up every afternoon. They’d talk for hours, an activity that invariably involved a bottle or two of locally produced wine. 'I might as well die happy,' he thought." Now how does he make a living? "He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year."

Here in the U.S., you're an alcoholic if you drink daily, certainly beginning early in the day. Do you know that barely more than half of Americans drink as frequently as once a month? Look how this fact is described in alarmist terms at Activist Post: "More than half of Americans drink alcohol: report."

Around 52 percent of 137,436 Americans interviewed in 2008 and 2009 said they had a tipple in the past month, the report released late last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says. (emphasis added)

This is one area where American health recommendations apply only to the rank and file: the alcohol public health figures I know all drink regularly.

1. Community. So, you noticed, Moraitis' childhood friends came over to his house while he was sick, and he plays dominoes late into the night at his local tavern. For most islanders, "At sunset, they either visited neighbors or neighbors visited them." Are you planning on doing that in order to live a long, happy life? Who wants to hang out with their neighbors here? Worse, "Nearly 40 percent of adults, many of them disillusioned with the high unemployment rate and the dwindling trickle of resources from Athens, still vote for the local Communist Party. About 75 percent of the population on Ikaria is under 65. The youngest adults, many of whom come home after college, often live in their parents’ home. They typically have to cobble together a living through small jobs and family support."

Here in the U.S., we despise people who live like that, or who have these political views. And how's this sit with you: "For the many religious and cultural holidays, people pool their money and buy food and wine. If there is money left over, they give it to the poor. It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”  That's certainly not the Republican platform!

Yes, as you can see, we're doomed.

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Need help with an addiction—see Stanton's Life Process Program.

Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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